Already seen the Mad Men finale? Read on at the end for some additional, spoiler-filled analysis.
Truth well told. Mad Men’s last hour is perfectly tailored for what could be the best television show ever made.
Allowing every character’s story to play out naturally, while also comfortably resolving each, showrunner Matthew Weiner weaves closure into every one of these final moments. After 92 episodes, broadcast over eight years, Weiner has – with apparent ease and unique style – crafted characters that take relatability to the point of emotional reliance. These joyfully loquacious beings have been through so much that it’s impossible not to have fallen in love with them. Mad Men has never provided answers for life’s problems. It does more than that: Mad Men provides a way to cope with those problems, and the answers that may follow.
Lovingly performed, and rebelliously bold, Episode 14 of Season 7 is as charming as Mad Men has ever been. Peaceful in its execution, this is a firmly final episode that avoids clichés, delivers on every front and leaves its beloved inhabitants exactly where they are meant to be. Person to Person offers boundless interpretations of the end, as it warmly waves farewell. It knowingly avoids reminiscence, leaving that up to the viewers.
Beginning with Draper himself – smoking in a bar, of course – the show has since showcased the achievements of everyone within. Black people have gone from the elevator to managing the office; homosexuals from outlawed to resident; women from typists to partners. Mad Men embodies these successes by itself being a phenomenal achievement.
And so within this hour are stories of love, defiance, legacy and, yes, success – each imbibed with a sensitive finality and unavoidable fondness. It is a testament to the writing that, in the last episode, everything and nothing changes. These fully-fledged lives play out on-screen as they always have. Betty towers above her problems, a vision of beauty and grace; Roger out-Rogers himself as the infinite playboy; Pete, in a single scene, can be recognised as having earned every moment of his happiness; Joan does what she has always done, as elegantly as she has always done it; and Peggy is finally confronted with an objective she has forgone so many times in the name of ambition, in an exchange that will undoubtedly encourage as many smiles as tears.
Jon Hamm’s troubled, tested and talented leading man continues his adventure, allowing his truest relationship to take him somewhere peaceful in the hope he can come to terms with where he has ended up. Indescribably, and so suddenly, Don Draper finds exactly what he has always been looking for in a perfectly average man no different from Don himself. It’s a mammoth scene, a true moment in the show’s history, and one of the most incredible speeches performed in a show in which incredible speeches are the product on sale.
It is nothing less than a privilege to have watched (and bonded with) such powerful characters amid the oddities of the offices they have worked and lived in. As a series, and as a final episode, Mad Men is a beautiful examination of timeless love. Bravo.
Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– Peggy and Stan’s borderline ridiculous exchange mirrored the reaction to every story throughout Person to Person: each could be ended by the viewer saying “…of course”. Because although they avoided cliché and predictability, each conclusion felt just right for the character in question.
– If the happy tears were shed at Stan sprinting throughout an office block after finally admitting his love for Peggy, the sad tears exploded when Don rang Betty. In this terrible time, it was Betty that comforted Don, almost wordlessly.
– Is he? Isn’t he? After observing a man precisely describe love, Don’s discovery of peace could be seen to be his death . Or, at least, his freedom from his search to feel normal. Evoking his beloved time in California, Don Draper doesn’t really need that clarity in his goodbye; either way, he’s in his resting place.
Mad Men: Season 1 to 7 is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.
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